Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chess and Aptitudes

Albert Frank Headshot by Albert Frank

I very briefly introduce you to an experiment that was performed in 1973.

Very often one hears statements such as, "You need to be intelligent to play chess," "Chess fosters intelligence,"… All this is too vague.

In 1973, in co-operation with the Psychology Department of the "Université Nationale du Zaïre" at Kisangani, I undertook an experiment to clarify these issues.

It should be stated that in many countries there is a "Chess Class" taught in primary and secondary schools by the faculty. This makes it extremely difficult to obtain unbiased statistics since there is a general familiarity with chess.

As an initial step, I received permission from the Government of Zaire to alter the curriculum of three classes of the fourth year curriculum for an entire year in a major secondary school of Kisangani. (Belgian school system class denominations are assumed here.) In those three classes, two out of a total of seven hours of mathematics taught per week were replaced by two hours of chess instruction.

There were a total of six classes each with 30 students in the fourth year in this institution. So now they were divided into two groups : The three classes in my "experimental" group (A) ; and the three others in the "control" group (B).

I was allowed to administer the following battery of intelligence related tests:

  • the Belgian version of the G.A.T.B. ("General Aptitude Test Battery")
  • the P.M.A. ("Primary mental abilities" by Thurstone)
  • the D.A.T. ("Differential Aptitude Test" by Bennet, Seashore and Wesman)
  • the D2 (Brieckenkamp)
  • the Rorschach.

Some preliminary remarks should be made before going over to the description of the results of the experiment.

  1. Knowing the degree to which the tests employed were culturally fair to the tested persons is not absolutely necessary, since the aim was merely to compare groups A and B for whom there were no significant cultural differences.

  2. No student in either group had ever even heard of chess, which is a very useful feature. Ideally, there could have been a third group, but you can't have it all!

  3. There were seven hours of instruction weekly (mathematics + chess for group A, exclusively mathematics for group B). The instruction was provided by French speaking teachers — two Belgian teachers for mathematics and myself for chess.

Experiment phases:

  1. At the beginning of the year, all students (A and B groups) were administered the battery of tests described above. Both groups scored approximately the same.

  2. Whereas group B was taught mathematics 7 hours a week, group A was given the same program in five hours a week, and received two hours a week of chess instruction. (Wednesday 11-12 a.m. and Saturday 7-8 a.m..)

  3. Instruction involved testing of subject matter. This included the chess lessons, just like the others mathematics lectures. In group A chess tests and exams accounted for 2/7ths of the usual mathematics curriculum score, and actual mathematics skills accounted for the fractional part, 5/7 of the total score.

  4. At the end of the year, all students of both groups were given the battery of intelligence-related tests again. The students of the experimental group A also took an exam to test the chess level reached. The items of this exam were mostly written by Doctor Max Euwe, former chess world champion and chairman of the F.I.D.E. (Fédération internationale du Jeu d'Echecs).

The results obtained:

Among tested intelligence-related aptitudes, the two groups differed significantly, with the experimental group A scoring significantly better than the control group. The "arithmetic", with a confidence level of 0.95 and "verbal logic" (most often measured by the identification of synonyms or antonyms) with a confidence level of 0.99.

These findings answer some of the questions that were being investigated. But why verbal logic? … There is still no answer.

  1. The experiment also enabled us to answer questions with a view to delineating, by taking the results of the aptitude test into account, the ability to enhance chess performance… but this is beyond the scope of this summary.

  2. The students of both groups received special attention till the end of their secondary studies, i.e. two years after the end of the experiment. The students of the experimental group obtained significantly better results in the long term, both in their mathematics and in their French abilities.

The complete study description is given in the book CHESS AND APTITUDES, Albert Frank, American Chess Foundation, December 1978.

A technical summary (in French) has been published under the title "Aptitudes et apprentissage du jeu d'échecs au Zaïre" in the magazine "Psychopathologie Africaine," 1979, XV, 1, 81-98.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting read i used chess to better train myself in stress situations after a severe head injury.

I think mainly the mind gets used to stress with chess, kids usually don't get themselves into such logical kind of stress.

So i assume the kids better learn to make choices, see consequences before they act. Language itself is a lot about shaping your ideas with words, and the reverse

That might clarify why they also improved their language.

In fact some daily complex problems remind of chess positions.
For example a sudden complex problem to me is like a fork in chess. And i might even remind me a picture of a knight fork.